Race for Pierce County District Court bench split evenly between 3 contenders in early returns

Votes were split fairly evenly in early returns Tuesday between the three candidates vying for a four-year seat on the Pierce County District Court bench to replace Judge Patrick O’Malley.

Jeanette Lineberry was slightly ahead in the initial returns. If that holds, the remaining ballots will determine whether Karl Williams or Sandy Allen joins her in the general election.

All the candidates have worked as judges, at least on a temporary basis, and all have experience with the local legal system.

The person elected to District Court Position 8 will oversee criminal misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor cases and civil disputes with a value of less than $75,000 that originate in the unincorporated county. The annual salary for the nonpartisan post is about $140,000.

Lineberry, a 42-year-old attorney, is a former deputy prosecutor, has worked as a legal advocate at the Crystal Judson Family Justice Center, and has been a judge pro-tem for Pierce County District Court and Lakewood Municipal Court since 2012.

Allen, 51, is a municipal court judge in Ruston and Milton, has been a judge pro-tem in 15 courts in three counties since 1999, and has worked as both a prosecuting attorney and a private attorney, as well as an arbitrator and mediator.

This is the third time Williams has run for District Court; he made a bid for Superior Court in 2000, as well. The 53-year-old attorney has been a Pierce County judge pro-tem since 1996, and has also been a judge pro-tem for municipal courts in Fife, Puyallup and Ruston.

“It’s too close to be comfortable,” Williams said at 8 p.m about the first batch of returns, which showed him in second place for the time being. “I think there are less than 50 votes that separate me and Sandy Allen. I’m hoping for the best.”

Lineberry and Allen were not immediately available for comment.